November 29, 2010

Demanding Design Boosts Shuttle Engine (Source: Space Daily)
A space shuttle main engine burns at 6,000 degrees F, but the outside of the nozzle remains cool to the touch. Prior to launch, sometimes it even frosts over. The nozzle technology that allows a finger-width of ridged metal to contain and steer flames that would boil iron is just one of the scores of innovations designers came up with for the engines three decades ago. Such advances were critical if NASA was going to realize its plans for a reusable space shuttle that, unlike the previous rockets, would not use its engines once and then drop them in the ocean.

Some of the others: a system that lets the engines be incrementally throttled up and down depending on the needs of the mission; a hydrogen turbopump that spins 567 times a second with each 2" tall turbine blade generating 700 horsepower; a computer that runs 50 health checks on the engine every second using data from 200 sensors; a system of pipes, or ducts, that withstand pressures as high as 7,000 pounds per square inch; and several others. Click here to read the article. (11/29)

White House Announces Federal Pay Freeze (Source: Washington Post)
President Obama announced Monday a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal employees, including those working at the Department of Defense. The White House expects the move to save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal 2011 — which began Oct. 1 — and $28 billion over the next five years. (11/29)

Spaceport Indiana Plans to Host Trans-Atlantic Balloon Flight (Source: SPI)
The White Star Balloon team is building the first small balloons to float, unmanned, all the way from Spaceport Indiana USA to Europe this winter. On the four thousand mile voyage, the balloons will be blown forward at up to 200MPH by the category 5 hurricane winds that make up the Jet Stream. A few amateurs have tried in the past, but all failed to make it completely across the Atlantic Ocean. (11/29)

Spaceport Indiana's "Race To Space" Rocket Competition Planned in 2011 (Source: SPI)
In May 2011, Indiana will host the first of its kind rocket competition at Spaceport Indiana. The event will play host to teams from five states as they bring their best designs and launch them miles into the air. Teams from elementary, middle, high school and colleges will launch rockets that will ultimately offer new concepts in flight. The idea behind the competition is to inspire students to put their ideas into action and see if they can solve challenges that we face in space exploration. Spaceport Indiana is a commercial launch facility and will offer the use of its launch site, rocket engine test cell and other capabilities to these young pioneers.

The chance to use the facilities as part of their design and test phases is a new opportunity for young rocketeers. In most competitions, the teams show up with their design and fly. We want them to understand how to use facilities to prepare the most successful flights possible. Entry fees range from $200 - $400 depending on the grade level. Teams are limited to 5 members. There is no limit to the number of teams that can register from each school. Click here for more. (11/29)

Moratorium on Earmarks Could Hurt California Defense Contractors (Source: AIA)
Hundreds of defense contractors in Southern California could slash jobs or go out of business altogether if a proposed moratorium on federal earmarks passes. Critics see the earmarks as an example of pork-barrel spending that contributes to the $1.4 trillion deficit. The Senate is expected to vote on the moratorium as early as today. More than $3 billion in earmarks went to defense work in California this year. (11/29)

Defense Cuts Target Texas Weapons Programs (Source: AIA)
Weapons programs in Texas are among programs at the top of the Pentagon's list as it looks to make major budget cuts. Various proposals slash procurement -- which has been North Texas's prime source of federal funding. Reductions would also cut in half the purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, built in Fort Worth. (11/29)

Flattening Milspace Budgets Spark Reaction (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. military space programs, which have suffered through a decade of multibillion-dollar cost overruns and massive delays, must become more competitive to maintain funding as defense budgets flatten, according to senior Pentagon officials. At a recent conference, space industry leaders and company and government program managers got what amounted to a gentle lecture from Defense Department leaders who are bracing for tough years ahead in their development and procurement budgets. They also responded with their own criticism of Washington and calls for change.

Several industry leaders agreed with the goal of reducing the cost of military space systems, but they differed on how to do it. While some saw the challenge as an opportunity, others seemed more pessimistic. “The defense sector will not be... sheltered from the perfect storm gathering around us” of ballooning national debt and a demand by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to pursue more contract accountability, efficiencies and $101 billion in savings by Fiscal 2016, said a Lockheed Martin executive.

Requirements for the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), a $10 billion Lockheed program to build the next missile warning constellation, contributed to massive cost overruns as did mismanagement on the part of the company. Unnecessarily invasive oversight is also a hindrance for industry, she said. “Stop bringing 500 people to a design review [and] stop bringing ... more independent review teams in,” she said. (11/29)

O'Keefe: EADS Expects U.S. Acquisitions to Take Off (Source: AIA)
EADS is expected to become more aggressive in acquisitions in the U.S. market now that the company's commercial unit has an improved outlook. The company's U.S. acquisitions had been limited to less than $500 million during the downturn, but that limit has lifted, said EADS North America CEO Sean O'Keefe. "We're not restricting ourselves to [the $500 million] level exclusively anymore," he said. "The direction I'm getting now from [parent company CEO] Louis Gallois and the board is that we're prepared to entertain more aggressively companies that can give us market access we don't currently have." (11/29)

Black Apollo (Source: Space Review)
As part of preparations for the Apollo landings, NASA needed to get detailed imagery of potential landing sites. Dwayne Day reveals a partnership between NASA and NRO that proposed using Apollo spacecraft equipped with reconnaissance satellite cameras to provide those images. Visit to view the article. (11/29)

Year of the Solar System (Source: Space Review)
While most of the recent attention NASA has received has been on its human spaceflight programs, its robotic missions also are noteworthy. Lou Friedman contrasts the impending milestones for the agency's missions with the fiscal issues some of those programs face. Visit to view the article. (11/29)

Space Colonization in Three Histories of the Future (Source: Space Review)
Space settlement has long been a core tenet of space advocates, who have offered a range of scenarios about how it would work. John Hickman examines these proposals and highlights the flaws in their historical analogies. Visit to view the article. (11/29)

NASA's Extended Limbo (Source: Space Review)
Last month the president signed into law a NASA authorization bill that reoriented the agency's human spaceflight efforts. However, as Jeff Foust reports, budget delays and implementation questions keep NASA's future plans uncertain. Visit to view the article. (11/29)

Fighting for Pluto's Planet Title (Source: Space News)
Alan Stern has been fighting for Pluto's planethood ever since the icy body was demoted to "dwarf planet" in 2006. That year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) came up with a new definition of "planet": A body that circles the sun without being another object's moon, is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity (but not so big that it undergoes nuclear fusion, like a star) and has "cleared its neighborhood" of most other orbiting bodies. Since Pluto shares orbital space with many other objects in the Kuiper Belt — the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune — it was relegated to the newly created category of dwarf planet.

The rethink was partly a response to the discovery of Eris, by Caltech astronomer Mike Brown. Eris, a rocky world circling the sun far beyond Pluto, was initially thought to be larger than its Kuiper Belt cousin. But new observations of Eris have cast doubt on its size supremacy. Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and leader of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, strongly disagrees with Pluto's demotion. Click here to read the interview. (11/29)

O3b Secures Funding For Broadband Satellite Network (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Satellite communications company O3b Networks said Monday it has raised $1.2 billion from a group of investors and banks, its final funding round before the launch of its global satellite broadband network. O3b, which is backed by Google Inc. (GOOG), plans to launch its fiber-quality Internet service serving emerging markets. (11/29)

A Shuttle for Intrepid (Source: New York Post)
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on Manhattan's West Side remains in the running to become permanent home to one of three retired NASA space shuttles when the program is officially shuttered next year. But this month's elections lengthened the odds. The House Science Committee oversees NASA -- and its incoming chairman, Ralph Hall (R-Texas), has made no bones about where he'd like shuttles Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis located: "East Texas, West Texas, Northeast Texas and even the 4th District of Texas, even the Panhandle, would make excellent homes for the orbiter fleet."

That's not welcome news to the 20 cultural institutions -- including the Intrepid -- that are trying to land one of the retired shuttles. In addition to Texas, Florida is New York's chief competitor, given its status as home to the Kennedy Space Center. But, as New York's Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ensured in language inserted into NASA's funding bill last year, the final location for a shuttle need only have some historical connection to the US space program, and Intrepid qualifies. (11/29)

Editorial: 2010: Space Oddity (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Under a magnificent high-desert sky, the Spaceship Company has broken ground on a new hangar at the Mojave Spaceport - a $200 million investment in California's future made when capital, jobs and entire industries are fleeing the Golden State at warp-speed. This joint venture of specialty aircraft manufacturer, Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic builds spacecraft for the emerging private space tourism market.

The firm is one of several private California companies supported by an audacious new space policy. The Obama administration, Congress, NASA and the private sector are finally voyaging toward a market-based space industry. Admittedly, the new policy's vision is not bold enough nor its exploration schedule aggressive enough, but it does - as the Great One advised - "skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's been."

It dismantles a cost-plus quagmire that has left Americans traveling in space far less often, far less safely, at far greater expense and, most ironically, not so very far at all. Much must be done to maintain U.S. space leadership, but privatization is absolutely required. In a world of declining revenues and budget-crushing entitlements, NASA as a sleepy jobs program for aging engineers is unsustainable. (11/29)

Look Back Before Moving Forward (Source: Florida Today)
NASA needs to remember lessons from Columbia disaster. -- Gas lines were leaking again out at the shuttle launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. Foam insulation on the external tank cracked, raising the specter of dangerous launch debris. The metal beneath the foam, part of the tank's support structure, cracked in four places. Thus far, root causes for the tank cracks are proving elusive. Nevertheless, the space shuttle team is pushing ahead in hopes they'll be able fly the next-to-last scheduled mission as early as mid-December.

The decision on the eve of Thanksgiving to wait a couple weeks to study the problems is a good sign. Sound engineering, so far, is ruling the day. Yet, the sense of urgency to get this mission off the ground this year is strong. It's understandable, but disconcerting. What's the hurry? NASA says there is none. Senior brass, front-line managers and engineers will tell you they will launch no shuttle before they're convinced it's safe. They appear sincere in that belief.

People need to be reminded to remember. Memories fade. Circumstances change. Requirements creep. Turnover of shuttle personnel erodes the lessons learned. Columbia's loss is evidence that those lessons, learned once, are not retained permanently. A new schedule pressure is brewing, whether NASA and its contractors want to admit it or not. Those who've watched the program long enough can sense the urgency to keep the shuttles flying at a regular pace. The ingredients for Congress to pull the plug on the program -- perhaps even earlier than expected -- are all there. (11/29)

Using Existing Rockets for Future Human Exploration (Source: NASA Watch)
Bravo Lockheed Martin [for moving to launch the Orion capsule on a lunar mission atop a Delta-4 rocket]. A near-term, private sector solution to human space flight, using a commercially available rocket and Orion - much sooner than Ares 1 could have ever done. Now, sit back and watch as the (otherwise) pro-business Republicans in Congress - especially ATK's congressional delegation - try and stop it. (11/29)

Program Error Caused Japanese Space Probe's Failure to Shoot Ball at Asteroid (Source: Mainichi Daily)
An error in a computer program sent from the ground caused Japan's Hayabusa unmanned space probe to fail to shoot a metal ball at the asteroid Itokawa to collect rock samples from it, according to the results of a study by the national space agency. Although the probe somehow managed to bring back to earth particles of rocks from the asteroid last June, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will learn from the lesson when it sends a successor probe into space. (11/29)

No comments: